Recruiting has really been a mixed bag for UTSA this summer. While UTSA has been able to draw commitments from some talented athletes, they've also suffered more defeats on the recruiting trail than in previous years. I was able to chat it up with my good friend Javi Cardenas of BirdsUp.com, UTSA's Rivals affiliate to get his take on UTSA's recruiting class so far. Be sure to check out BirdsUp.com for in-depth coverage and analysis of UTSA recruiting.
Jared: UTSA has lost
four five recruiting battles to Houston, two to SMU, two to Texas State and others to schools like Tulsa, Toledo, Colorado State, Rice, and Arkansas State. While the Roadrunners have never quite been a recruiting powerhouse, this summer has been an ass kicking on the recruiting trail. What do you contribute the inability to close on early offers to?
Javi: I think last year's great recruiting class set a pretty high standard for the program. UTSA was riding all the momentum a young program could want. This year is a completely different story. Other mid-major programs have been taking UTSA to the shed. I think this due to a couple factors, the most obvious of which being facilities. Programs like SMU, Houston, and Colorado State have P5 type facilities. It is very hard for UTSA to compete with the type of money these programs are able to invest into their football facilities. We sometimes forget that UTSA has only been around for 5 years. The money is just not there yet to build fancy new weight rooms or an indoor practice facility. The second factor is the coaching changes made by Houston and SMU. Last year UTSA beat SMU and Houston a multitude of times for recruits. UTSA even got two commitments after beating Houston because recruits made a bet that if UTSA won they would both commit to the Roadrunners. Chad Morris and Tom Herman have taken over the mid-major recruiting game in Texas. UTSA has to regroup quickly.
Jared: Yep, I'm with you on the step up in competition. Even Phil Montgomery at Tulsa is doing a fantastic job getting kids excited about Tulsa. Looking at Tulsa, SMU, and Houston recruiting stuff on Twitter it's clear they're dropping a lot of resources into updating their branding to give an exciting and modern image. That's hard to do at SMU.
How could you see UTSA competing against these other regional mid-major recruiting competitors? Besides winning on the field or finding an extremely generous multi-millionaire donor of course.
Javi: Honestly UTSA does a terrible job growing their brand on social media. UTSA's monetary woes are well documented, so why not use the easiest way to grow your brand for free? You see programs like Houston and SMU use Twitter masterfully. Houston uses the #HTownTakeover thing and SMU uses #StangGang, among others. Although it might sound silly and childish recruits love this stuff. UTSA lacks this ability to create hype. I mean SMU won a total of one game last year, but you can't tell by the way they manipulate their brand. It's more than just hashtags. You can throw out stats, info, important dates, etc. Recruiting has evolved and I feel like UTSA is way behind the curve.
Jared: Those are the hot takes I'm looking for! UTSA might not have the budget to support hiring a full time recruiting coordinator but dammit they need to look for GAs with some crazy Photoshop/Final Cut skills. You're absolutely right, social media is the most cost-effective way to market in general. When 18 year old kids are your target demographic it's even more of a no-brainer. It would probably take two hours to clip up a sweet 30 second Twitter video to place into recruits' timelines once a week but UTSA couldn't even be bothered to do that.
Moving on, UTSA currently has three commits for the 2016 class. Innis Gaines, a 6'2" safety, Jack Giblin, a 6'3" WR/TE/H-Back, and Carrington Kearney, a 5'11" QB that is expected to play cornerback at UTSA. What do you think of these guys? Think they're locks to sign in February?
Javi: One last thing on the social media topic. Houston released a "hype" video that had a grand total of one football play. You cannot tell me UTSA can't do that stuff.
Let's start with Beaumont, West Brook DB Innis Gaines (6-2, 190lbs). He could be one of the best defensive back recruits UTSA has ever landed. Has the perfect size and length required to excel in UTSA's 4-2-5 defense. If there was a recruit to be worried about flipping at this point it would be Gaines. He tweeted that he was still a "proud roadrunner", but that isn't something an offer from Texas Tech, or TCU can't fix.
We move to Pflugerville with Hendrickson ATH Carrington Kearney (5-11, 172lbs). He will play QB for his Hendrickson squad this season, but he will play cornerback for Jeff Popovich at UTSA. It's hard to tell how Kearney will project as a corner, but I trust that coach Pop knows what he is doing. Unless Kearney gets a P5 offer I believe he will stick with UTSA. He committed right after receiving an offer. He wants to be a roadrunner.
And finally it's the newest commit, Port Neches-Groves wide receiver Jack Giblin (6-3, 210). With UTSA moving to this no huddle offense, offensive coordinator Kevin Brown will use an H-back type receiver. I can see him coming out of the backfield, splitting out wide or even becoming a second tight end. Triston Crossland is the only player on the roster that can play that position. I can see Giblin filling that role at one point. Another player that I am positive will sign with UTSA in February.
Tight end's coach Charlie Reeve is doing a masterful job recruiting the golden triangle
these past couple of years.
Jared: Haha yeah, I was kinda surprised my tweet about that Houston hype video only having one play on it didn't get more retweets. Please help my #brand guys.
By all reports and indicators, UTSA is set to sign a full 25 scholarship recruiting class despite having relatively few offers out so far. What would you identify as the biggest needs in this class? Linebacker is obviously a big one after UTSA missed the boat on that position in the 2015 class. Any guys you could see committing after UTSA's last camp of the summer this week?
Javi: Yeah, linebackers are a huge need for 2016. I think UTSA also needs to address the defensive line. UTSA has some offers out there right now but they only seem to have a shot at a couple of these recruits. I am sure we will see another round of offers coming out at defensive tackle and defensive end. Another position UTSA seems to be targeting is running back. They are looking for a big bruising back.
I could see some commits after Tuesday's camp, but I wouldn't hold my breath. I've talked with a couple recruits that have told me UTSA coaches want to see them in person before offering, so I am sure UTSA will throw some more offers out there.
Jared: To wrap things up, how would you sum up the state of UTSA recruiting right now? How do you see them finishing the class?
Javi: UTSA has done a great job raising the level of recruit they get year after year. It seems they are wanting to take the next step going after some recruits with some big offers. The problem is that they are trying to do this at a very bad time. Houston and SMU are on a roll and UTSA is coming off a very disappointing season. I'm not saying fans should press the panic button just yet, but the number of recruiting battle lost are mounting fast.
The UTSA coaching staff will find a way to fill the 25 available scholarships with great talent, there is no doubt about it. They've shown they are great at what they do time after time. Here's my how I see the 2016 class shaping out:
Major thanks to Javi for bringing such thorough answers and hot sports takes. Be sure to follow him on Twitter for more UTSA recruiting coverage than you could ever dream of.